I know this sounds kind of crazy, but I believe that one of the things that’s helping me professionally is that I’m always a little paranoid. I don’t mean that I think the FBI has me under surveillance, but I tend to be hyper-aware when something seems “off” or there’s a certain vibe in the air, and then I mull over whether I should take action. Maybe it’s another way of saying I go with my gut.
The downside of being slightly paranoid is that it can result in plenty of sleepless flopping on one’s mattress. So I play connect the dots. I won’t let one thing bug me, but if there are two of the same nature, I take note. At one point, I worked for a dynamite man who suddenly seemed to be gone a lot from the office — off on junkets, etc. Maybe, I told myself, he just needs more downtime. Then one day, I saw him yawn at the weirdest moment and realized: He’s checked out. I knew he might be gone soon, so I got to know his number two better over the next month. When my boss left a short time later and the number two was promoted, it sure made the transit easier for me.
In writing fictional short stories, I’ve researched a fair number of people and one of them is a terrific woman named Barbara Butcher. She knows a lot about listening to one’s gut — she’s the chief of staff and director of the Forensic Sciences Training Program at the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner. She started her career as a medical death investigator, investigating 5,500 death scenes and 680 homicides. Barbara says that being a good death investigator meant opening her senses and abandoning preconceived notions of what she was going to find at the scene.
“Everything we need to know is around us, as long as we are truly taking it in,” she says. Her advice for honing your gut instincts? “Put your hands over your mouth — learn to listen, see, smell, and absorb everything around you without speaking your first thoughts. Then you will get all the signals you need to be able to trust your instincts.” In other words, just shut up. I love that.
Barbara also says to pay attention to when you use the phrase “Yes, but…” It’s a sign that someone is telling you something you should be aware of but don’t want to hear.
Listening to one’s gut…isn’t that one of the first things we learn as Jedi?